Women in the Workplace: Q+A with JLL’s Women’s Business Network

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JLL’s Women’s Business Network (WBN) empowers a culture of gender partnership to attract, develop and retain the best women in the marketplace. Executive Vice President in JLL’s Tenant Representation Group Nick Francic sat down with one of JLL’s leading professionals, Stacey Jo Bonenberger, to learn more about the employee resource group and its impact in the Midwest. 

JLL Pittsburgh Women's Business Network is teamwork

Q: For those that don’t know you, can you explain your role at JLL and your involvement in Women’s Business Network (WBN)?

JLL's Stacey Jo BonenbergerA: I’d be happy to! Organizationally I’m part of JLL’s Integrated Facilities Management group, and my specific area of focus is with our global shared services network and Facilities Management call centers. I started my career at JLL as an entry-level call center agent but over time have held roles within our Corporate Solution’s Deployment Team and Supply Chain Management and Procurement. It’s been a wild ride but is a very true testament to the level of commitment and quality JLL has with our career development program. JLL is the only company I’ve worked for (I don’t think the Dairy Queen counts?) but my resume reflects six distinct jobs that I’ve performed over the past 19 years. 

The Women’s Business Network is just one of several Employee Resource Groups that JLL has. I’m the lead for the Pittsburgh chapter of the WBN, however, we’re closely tied into JLL’s national WBN for direct partnership and collaboration.

Given how robust JLL’s product offerings are, connecting with JLL’s colleagues nationally via our WBN has been a great way to learn more about other service lines. And really, to make sure those learnings extend to the local members of our WBN chapter for career development. Just recently I had someone from the Northeast’s WBN reach out to me specifically to socialize new job opportunities because she knows how saturated the Pittsburgh market is with talented employees.

Q: JLL champions inclusion and empowerment. What success have you seen and what steps were taken to get there?

A: The power of JLL’s Employee Resource Groups, including the Women’s Business Network, is in how deep we go to recognize diversity.  We have a strong national collective of ERGs network that include African American, Latino, LGBT, female, veteran and employees of all abilities. We also have made great progress in developing a collective of “affinity” networks to help connect lifestyle groups like single parents and sober colleagues.

It’s the nuanced way that we’re thinking as a firm to support inclusion that becomes the catalyst for our colleagues to feel like they’re connected and represented – and ultimately empowered.

Q: What opportunities offered by WBN have been some of the most impactful for your career?

A: Coming into JLL at such a young age, I realized very quickly that it was important to learn from the female leaders that I worked for. There are several, specifically in the Pittsburgh market, who I recall observing almost in awe of how well they navigated through their careers at a time when Facilities Management was heavily dominated by males. It really is amazing how much you can learn just through observation. It became clear quickly that these were the colleagues I should ask for mentorship for my own career path. We approached these mentor-mentee relationships with a high level of candor, to make sure that we focused not just on experience and building out a solid skill set, but there were behavioral steps that I acknowledged needing to take so I was presenting myself as a mature, established professional (22-year old me needed some refinement).

On the other side, being a mentor to others has brought an equal level of impact and fulfillment my career—which I find to be so incredibly empowering. “Empowered people empower people” has become one of my favorite clichés. We have such a high amount of talent at JLL and specifically in Pittsburgh because there are many roles that make it easy to identify the talent and help grow them into other areas of the firm. I can say that in the past year, seven members of my direct organization were promoted into roles outside of their existing service line. And so many others are on deck.

Obviously, we don’t shy away from achieving our ambitions at JLL; specifically for the WBN, one of the greatest benefits is that we have a connected network to socialize our individual ambitions, and access to the leaders to help us recognize them.

Q: WBN focuses on increasing exposure of members within the firm and expanding their career progression. How do you feel it has affected your own career?

A: In 2016, through networking with female colleagues as well as experience with the WBN, I was contacted to interview for a role that completely changed the career trajectory that I was on. Which is one of the things I love about JLL—we have so many varying service lines that if you really want to try something new, it’s easy to transpose your acumen into that new area. I was offered that job, and it has been the catalyst over the past couple of years in identifying several new potential futures for my career planning. I’m always thinking about what’s next, on a two-year, five-year, and 10-year timeline.

Q: What candid conversations have resulted in change within JLL? Which areas still need some work?

A: There was a point in time where I had to have a very complicated conversation with a previous manager, specifically rooted in helping him understand the advantages he was unknowingly providing to a male peer, which felt like it was to the determinant of a few female colleagues on our team. It was scary, and I definitely recognized afterward ways to refine my approach in giving that type of feedback. But the benefit is that now I have the experience to help mentor others in the best ways to be bold and advocate for change in a meaningful way. Luckily, the manager recognized value in the feedback and learned from it.

I would love for all colleagues, male or female, to understand that there is power in that type of feedback, and culturally at JLL, our leaders consistently embrace that theme. I never want to think someone is struggling with inclusion and not sure how to communicate it.

Q: Which women in JLL have been most influential to your professional development?

A: This question goes very deep for me, because of my tenure and the number of service lines I’ve worked for.

As a young (and inexperienced!) colleague, I learned from my Pittsburgh-based mentors Coleen Cecil and Gillian Rose John how to conduct myself professionally, and that I shouldn’t shy away from answering my own call for excellence. Coleen and Gillian both received handwritten thank you cards from me when I received my Vice Presidency in 2010 specifically for how instrumental they’ve been.

When I was at the point of great exploration about what I wanted from my career, I learned from Eva Smith and Rhonda Toston that there is no problem the can’t be solved when great leaders manage a collaborative and excellent team.  

In the current state of my career, working for and with exceptional senior leaders like Ute Braash, Maureen Ehrenberg, Mary Taylor, and Joy Naseath has been instrumental to pushing my development forward; learning from the best allows me to perform at my best.  

If I could offer one piece of advice to a colleague on how to push their career forward, it would be to always and actively look for the connection between what you’re doing right now, and how it ties out to the larger JLL picture. When you understand those connections, you start to see the bigger picture and can pinpoint where you want to be positioned in that picture next.

JLL’s Pittsburgh office hosts one of 20 WBN chapters throughout the Americas region. The network connects more than 5,000 women within JLL.

We hope you’ll join us for a night of networking with JLL’s WBN and some of Pittsburgh’s top professionals at the Bizwomen Connect mixer. The event will take place Wednesday, October 10, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at JLL Center.

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